During these weeks following Easter, we continue to read about the developing early church and the spread of the Gospel beyond Jerusalem and Israel. In today’s reading we learn that the Apostle Paul brings the Gospel to Derbe and Lystra where he teams up with a young man named Timothy. Timothy was suspect in some quarters because he was only Jewish on his Mother’s side. His Father was Greek! Nonetheless, Paul judged him to be a great witness to Christ so made him his companion on the journey. Together they greatly strengthened every Christian community they visited.
Together they travelled on through Phrygian and Galatian territory though they were unable to enter the Province of Asia. They wanted to go to Bythnia but could not so they headed to Mysia and Troas. Paul then has a vision calling him to Macedonia so they headed there.
It’s fascinating to watch Paul respond to the obstacles that constantly emerge in his path. He plans to go to one place but something prevents him so he immediately adjusts and goes to another. He takes on a companion who others find objectionable. He is mistrusted by many of the Jewish Christians so he moves on to the Gentiles. Though Paul is single-minded and determined to spread the Good News, he is remarkably flexible and creative in responding to obstacles thrown in his path. No wonder he is such a great apostle.
The resilience Paul shows in his apostolic life can be a great model for all of us who want to witness to Christ’s presence in our world. There are always obstacles for us and often our plans prove unworkable for one reason or another. It’s easy for us to get discouraged and be tempted to give up. But Paul’s creativity and determination encourage us not to lose heart but to look beyond our small plans and trust that God is opening new ways forward for us. May we have the freedom and courage to follow God’s lead.
Fr. Michael Higgins, C.P. is the director of Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center, Sierra Madre, California.